HOUSTON - It’s now day two of the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order in Harris County meaning, only people with jobs considered “essential” should be out driving around.
The list of approved “essential” jobs includes medical personnel, first responders, truck drivers, grocery store workers, journalists, and construction workers.
According to Danny Perez, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation, none of TxDOT’s projects in the Houston area have been halted because of Coronavirus COVID-19.
“TxDOT is committed to serving the people of Texas and meeting the state’s transportation needs,” said Perez. “We are working closely with our contractors as well and, at this time, we have not halted any ongoing project work in the Houston area. We also have implemented higher standard safety protocols for our construction and maintenance crews. We are continuing to monitor the situation closely and we are in constant contact with state health and emergency management officials to follow any guidance issued.”
With the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order in effect, Houston area highways have very little traffic. If construction crews follow social distancing orders, they’re allowed to work through the new COVID-19 county guidelines.
“Further, our Area Offices are always contemplating how we can advance work on our projects, that is a fundamental element of what they do and always with safety first at the top of mind,” said Perez. “We agree that lighter traffic on our roadways potentially presents some opportunities to advance some of our work and that is being assessed on a case-by-case basis. That said, there are a few opportunities where our contractors have already been able to advance some of their work.”
While construction is allowed in the area, some drivers we met on Thursday disagree with the decision to work.
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“Sometimes the work causes them to socially distance,” said Saheena Zaramba. “For the most part, I see them around each other.”
“First and foremost, we need to watch out for each other’s health and safety right now,” said Chris Ritchie.
According to TxDOT, they’re doing their best to implement safe working conditions.
“We typically work very closely with the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show (HLSR) to minimize and often suspend closures that would adversely impact mobility during this time of year,” said Perez. “Given the canceling of HLRS, several of our contractors were able to mobilize their crews and resources to conduct work that we might otherwise be holding off on or phasing differently."
"Additionally, on a case-by-case basis, our contractors are looking at the programming of their work and asking for extended closure times to accelerate some of their work," Perez continues. "In such cases, the contractor is being allowed to work in some areas for long stretches of time, specifically because peak travel periods are not as congested as they would be under “normal” circumstances.”